Civil rights attorney Fred Gray honored by Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

Friday, October 23rd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred GrayNewSouth Books salutes distinguished civil rights attorney Fred Gray, author of Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred Gray, who received a Phoenix Award presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. recently.

Mr. Gray received the Annual Legislative Conference Co-Chairs Award, given each year to an individual who has championed civil rights and social justice issues. In reviewing award candidates, the ALC award co-chairs also seek a person who has significantly impacted on the African-American community. This year’s award co-chairs were United States House Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Terri Sewell.

Photographs courtesy Imagine Photography (top) and 609 Multi Media (bottom).

In 1955, at the age of 24, Fred Gray was the lawyer for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, beginning the modern day civil rights movement and his own long and distinguished career as a civil rights attorney and activist. The ALC Co-Chair’s Phoenix Award is a fitting recognition of Mr. Gray’s groundbreaking work challenging racial discrimination.

Bus Ride to Justice is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Halley wins Moonbeam Awards Silver Medal

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Halley by Faye GibbonsNewSouth Books is delighted to announce that Halley by Faye Gibbons has won the Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction in the ninth Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.

The awards are presented by Independent Publisher and the Jenkins Group. They feature gold, silver, and bronze award levels in 42 subject categories. The awards were created to celebrate children’s books and lifelong learning. Winners have included books from large publishers, university presses, and independents such as NewSouth Books. Judges for the award favor books of social relevance with strong content and original writing. Earlier this year, Halley was also named a Jefferson Cup Honor Book by the Virginia Library Association. Congratulations, Faye!

Halley by Faye Gibbons wins Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction in the ninth Moonbeam Children's Book Awards

Halley is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Dorothy Allison foreword to Crooked Letter i featured in Huffington Post

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 by Suzanne La Rosa

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinAn essay by bestselling author Dorothy Allison, which serves as a foreword to Crooked Letter i, has won the attention of the Huffington Post. The essay frames a smart and moving anthology of LGBT stories about coming out in the South, edited by Connie Griffin and newly published by NewSouth Books. In recalling the days before “this new wondrous age with Supreme Court decisions affirming gay and lesbian marriage,” Allison reminds us of the courage it took to self-identify as LGBT.

“Confronting the enforced silence of manners and social expectations, we claimed our lives for ourselves. Was it heroic? Was it audacious, marvelous, scary and day by day painful? Of course. Did we change the world? Look around you and marvel.” Allison’s passionate and precisely observed essay serves as a resounding “amen” to the diverse contributions that shape Crooked Letter i, which has received early praise from Kevin Sessums, Bennett Singer, and others.

“In this remarkable collection of essays,” says Sessums, “these writers not only claim their rightful place in the landscape of letters but also the geography of juleps and cheese grits and our fundamentalist families.”

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Steve Suitts sees irony in Southern response to immigration reform

Monday, October 12th, 2015 by Randall Williams

As Confederate symbolism, hostility to immigration reform, voting rights, and Donald Trump mania roil the waters of Deep South politics in the run-up to the 2016 elections, Steve Suitts reveals the irony in a Southern Spaces blog post that white ex-Confederates were early beneficiaries of U.S. amnesty for illegal aliens.


In his blog post, Suitts points out, “Many white southerners today are citizens, even though their ancestors took up arms against the United States and by their own reckoning gave up US citizenship to become part of a rebel nation. These same white southerners are US citizens today only because their ancestors benefited from a general, generous amnesty (far more than any group in this nation ever has) and from the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which Trump and his supporters, in effect, want to annul.”

Suitts, author of Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution, is an adjunct lecturer at Emory University, senior fellow at the Southern Education Foundation, and the former director of the Southern Regional Council. He is a native of Winston County, Alabama.

Hugo Black of Alabama is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

In Memoriam: Sabbath Country poet Charles Semones, 1937-2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

And All the Layered Light: Last Poems by Charles SemonesGuest post by Gregg Swem, antiquarian book dealer and Wade Hall’s life partner

Kentucky poet Charles Semones died on September 13, 2015. He was 78. Although he lived in Harrodsburg in his latter years, he was originally from the Deep Creek community of Mercer County, Kentucky, west of Harrodsburg, a rural landscape of stark ridges and hollows which informed much of the writer’s work. He was the author of And All the Layered Light: Last Poems, published in NewSouth Books’s “The Conecuh Series” in 2007.

Wade Hall, who wrote the introduction to the collection, was a longtime friend and literary mentor of Semones. Hall edited Kentucky Poetry Review in Louisville for many years, and Semones was a frequent contrbutor to that publication. Semones’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, general magazines and religious publications. Hall, a native of Bullock County, Alabama, where he returned in 2006 after a long teaching career in Louisville, often referred to Semones as “Kentucky’s finest living poet.”

In 1973, Kentucky Poetry Review published Semones’ Witch Cry, his first collection of poetry. And in the spring of 1992, the last issue of Kentucky Poetry Review was dedicated to Semones, featuring 10 of his poems. The issue also included poems by such literary figures as Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk who had lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky; James Laughlin of New Directions, which published Merton’s works; Wendell Berry, James Baker Hall, Sarah Litsey, Jane Mayhall, James Still, Jim Wayne Miller and Jane Stuart.

Charles Semones

Other volumes of poetry by Charles Semones are Homeplace (1993), Hard Love (1994), and Afternoon in the Country of Summer: New and Selected Poems (2003). He is also the author of a book of essays, A Storm of Honey: Notes from the Sabbath Country (2004). In 2003, he was given the inaugural Kentucky Literary Award for Excellence in Poetry.

Harking back to the earliest days of his association with Charles Semones in Kentucky, editor Hall points out in And All the Layered Light that he soon discovered he was “a talented, driven poet” unlike others he knew. “He seemed to inhabit another land, another country. Most of his poems were grounded in a place in Central Kentucky he called The Sabbath Country, which I discovered was based on his native Mercer County, and in particular, the rural inhabitants. . . .” In what was to be Semones’s last collection of poems, Hall found “a world of longing and desire, of passion and pursuit, of rapture and depression.” Furthermore, he states, “In his reclusive, gospel-drenched, haunted world of draped mirrors and desperate dog days of summer, the poet-lover moves along his lonely route seeking and hoping for at least a brief respite from the Gothic horrors, internal and external, that curse his journey. Semones’s own autobiographical travels and travails, which he has translated into a universal poetry of the soul, will resonate deeply with anyone who thinks deeply about the human condition.”

And All the Layered Light is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Randall Williams remembers author, friend Wade Hall

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Wade HallNewSouth Books co-founder and editor in chief Randall Williams eulogized his friend author Wade Hall, who passed away on September 26, in an article for the Montgomery Advertiser. NewSouth Books published five titles by Hall: Conecuh People: Words of Life from the Alabama Black Belt, An Interview with Abraham Lincoln, Waters of Life from the Conecuh Ridge: The Clyde May Story, Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor, and The Outrageous Times of Larry Bruce Mitchell. Due out in spring 2016: Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards, which showcases 400 plus postcards from a large bequest Hall made to the University of Alabama Libraries. Hall’s many gifts as scholar, writer, educator, and philanthropist are warmly recounted in Williams’s piece.

Louisville NPR station WFPL also noted Hall’s passing and praised him as a teacher and scholar. Charles Whaley, former Courier-Journal education editor, told the paper, “Through his work with and advocacy of Kentucky poets and writers Wade Hall established himself as a centrifugal force for literature in Kentucky and the South.”

Conecuh People: Words of Life from the Alabama Black Belt. An Interview with Abraham Lincoln, Waters of Life from the Conecuh Ridge: The Clyde May Story, Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor, and The Outrageous Times of Larry Bruce Mitchell are all available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.: in anticipation of Feb. 2016 release, book appearances, book trailers, more

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken: A Novel by Ross Howell Jr.February 2016 isn’t far off, at least in book publishing terms. With the release of Forsaken around the corner, the hard work of promoting the book begins.

For author Ross Howell Jr., this includes a book tour before his official book tour, which started with his appearance last weekend at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance big fall conference — SIBA’s 40th. Ross Howell Jr. signed advance reading copies of Forsaken for dozens of booksellers in attendance, stopping long enough to have his photo taken with long-time SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell — the creative force behind the organization — and also Kathy Giuffre, author of The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato, also at the show promoting her book. From SIBA, Howell travels to the NAIBA and NEIBA conferences, in the mid-Atlantic and northeast, where he will meet more bookstore buyers and managers and talk up Forsaken.

Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr and SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell celebrates SIBA's 40th anniversary
Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr and The Drunken Spelunker's Guide to Plato author Kathy Giuffre

Top: Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr. and SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell celebrate SIBA’s 40th anniversary; bottom: Howell and The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato author Kathy Giuffre.

Two book trailers also announce the release of Forsaken and speak to the book’s powerful underlying history. The first generally introduces the story of the sensational crime committed by Virginia Christian, a young black girl who, in 1912 Hampton Roads, Virginia, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. She was the only female juvenile to be executed in the history of the state. In the second, Ross Howell, Jr. speaks to Dr. Derryn Moten, whose dissertation of twenty years ago inspired the writing of Forsaken.

The trailers also share early praise received by the book. Author Minrose Gwin calls it “a haunting, riveting work of fiction that raises very contemporary questions about the racial politics of justice.” Jennie Fields adds, “A deep and powerful discourse on racism and redemption, Forsaken and the characters who live and breathe within its pages will not be soon forgotten. Not since Atticus Finch have we met a character spun from the threads of integrity as beautifully as Charlie Mears in Ross Howell Jr.’s exquisite novel.”

Last, a newly developed reading group guide, suitable for teachers, is now available.

Forsaken will be available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore in February, 2016.

Legendary civil rights attorney Solomon Seay Jr. leaves legacy in passing

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by Randall Williams

Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights LawyerCivil rights attorney Solomon S. Seay Jr. of Montgomery has died at age 84. Seay was the son of the Reverend Solomon S. Seay, a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the architects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The younger Seay graduated from Howard University Law School and opened his law office in Montgomery in 1957, shortly after the end of the boycott, just in time to play a key role in the escalating battles against Jim Crow segregation in education, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. Over the next half-century, attorney Seay, often in collaboration with his longtime law partner Fred D. Gray and/or the NAACP, ACLU, and other civil rights groups, won landmark rulings in scores of legal cases.

Seay describes his work and shares his observations about the people and times in his eloquent and witty memoir, Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer (NewSouth, 2009).

Attorney Fred Gray, his friend and colleague, said, “Sol and I worked together in the practice of civil rights law for almost fifty years. He played a major role in most all of the civil rights cases I handled during that period of time. His first civil rights case, Gilmore v. City of Montgomery, desegregated the public parks of Montgomery, and he went on from there. What he did in the civil rights movement has been felt not only in Montgomery but also in the state of Alabama and the United States of America. Each of us should be proud of what he did for mankind. He will be sorely missed but never replaced.”

A large crowd, including friends and fellow lawyers and judges from across the nation, gathered at the Church of the Ascension on September 19 for a memorial service, with burial following in a local cemetery.

Jim Crow and Me is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Crooked Letter i authors talk coming out in the South at Decatur Book Festival and with Georgia Public Radio

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinCrooked Letter i had its public launch at the Decatur Book Festival, where book contributor and festival panelists Susan Benton, Christina Holzhauser, B. Andrew Plant, Ed Madden, and James Villanueva participated in a lively and thought-provoking discussion about coming out in the South. Thanks to the Decatur Book Festival organizers for arranging for such a great kick-off event.

A few days before the festival, contributors Suzanne Lea and B. Andrew Plant were interviewed on the Georgia Public Radio program On Second Thought on an episode concerning the opening of the LGBT Institute in Atlanta. Host Celeste Headlee spoke with the authors about the emotions related to the experience of coming out in the South. Plant and Lea discussed the personal nature of the stories they shared in Crooked Letter i. They talked about the importance of trying to reach the next generation of LGBT teens with a message of support and opportunity. They also discussed how the distinct character of Southern culture — including very specifically the element of strong religious fundamentalism — affected their decisions to come out. “Southern” makes the stories in Crooked Letter i unique to LGBT literature.

Crooked Letter i panelists at the Decatur Book Festival: Susan Benton, James Villanueva, Christina Holzhauser, and Ed Madden. (Courtesy

Crooked Letter i panelists at the Decatur Book Festival: Susan Benton, James Villanueva, Christina Holzhauser, and Ed Madden. (Courtesy

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Remembering Lynn Huntley, Southern Education Foundation president emerita

Friday, September 18th, 2015 by Randall Williams
Lynn Walker Huntley (courtesy Southern Education Foundation)

NewSouth Books joins the chorus of voices mourning the recent passing of Lynn Huntley, former president of the Southern Education Foundation. For two decades, Lynn brought effective, creative leadership to the SEF, which has long been a powerful force for improved education, better race relations, and greater understanding in our region.

SEF VP Steve Suitts (author of NewSouth’s Hugo Black of Alabama) directed us to this post on the Southern Education Foundation website that remembers Lynn and also includes an essay she wrote for the World Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia. Lynn’s essay, “A Message to the Next Generation,” is as timely today as it was when she wrote it for the youth conference in South Africa in 2001.

The SEF post also included a link to a video of Lynn speaking to the first class of the Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI), which we’ve embedded below.